I've recently seen this photo and really liked it:
(source: serial-fizruk.net)

My question is: how to create such lighting effect? Is it created on post or it is real? Is it possible to create such lighting in a small studio?

  • \$\begingroup\$ mattdm, yes, I can. I really like rays of light and contrast between the man and a room. But I know how to create such contrast. I don't really now how to create rays without post processing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 17:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Here's a related question about How can I get photos showing the “shaft of light” effect?, but I'm not marking this as a duplicate as I'm not necessarily sure that's what's going on here. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 17:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Guessing that's added in post - strange that after travelling 93 millions miles, the light rays just fail to reach the ground. Unless there's no dust near the ground, or the lower half has been darkened in post. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 18:04
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ looks like they watched this video \$\endgroup\$
    – db9dreamer
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 15:11

2 Answers 2


Complementary to the other answer (by @b-shaw), which focusses on creating this effect in post processing, I'll try to explain how you can achieve this effect "in real life".

Your camera captures light (fotons). So you need a light source (in your example at the right side, above the field of view of the camera) and something the light can reflect upon. This can be for example fog, dust particles or smoke. A cheap way to create this is to use the brush of e chalk board and tap it on a hard surface. The chalk particles reflect the light.

The light source can be out-of-sight, such as in this example: light rays

or the light source can be visible, creating another dramatic effect: light rays

The light source will create a light spot towards the area where the light is pointing at. This can give you a clue to see if the effect is "real" or created in post production. In you example the light could be pointed towards the back of the man, and the spot would be on the groud, but out of sight of the camera view. On the other hand, the effect looks almost too perfect to be real to me. My guess is that - in this case - the effect is created (or at least enhanced) in post production.


There are a few ways to do this.

  • My favorite way is to use a tool called Rays from Digital Film Tools. I use it sparingly, essentially to reinforce light rays already in the image - http://www.digitalfilmtools.com/rays/

  • Alternatively, you could create a Rays-like layer by hand in Photoshop and add that over the original image - perhaps at a 50% opacity

  • Separately, you could use some of the Photoshop's lighting effects to create similar effects.

Regardless, I believe "less-is-more" when using this type of effect.


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